Keith Arthur: 13 barbel from a fertiliser bag

When I first visited Arena Pool at Cudmore Fisheries, prior to the first Fish O’Mania final there, some of the regulars were telling me that the barbel went into very tight pockets in winter.

Then Neil Machin and Andy May, both regulars, told me about barbel ‘holes’, where the fish actually find an area of lake bed that suits them and work it into a hole. 

I can only imagine this sort of procedure goes on in rivers too, perhaps a reason why in cold, clear conditions not many barbel are caught by standard methods.

What I can’t explain, no matter how vivid my imagination, is how 12 barbel can force their way into an old fertiliser bag, because that’s what happened to a match angler at Lingmere Fishery on the Wirral. Maybe it’s a little game barbel play among themselves – if they get caught or even hooked, they have to go in the bag for a spell of punishment. When barbel No 13 found itself being played it shot in with the rest of its mates, never expecting they’d all end up on the bank! I’m glad the angler concerned showed honesty and returned the dodgy dozen.

It reminds me of one or two tales, but nothing so extreme. Daiwa Dorking’s Terry Harrison – inventor of the elastic pull-bung – was fishing one of the old two-day festivals on the Kentish Rother when he hooked what he thought was a chub, fishing a waggler to the far bank. He played the fish across the river only for it to dive into the weed at his feet. He had a quick scoop with his landing net and came up with a 2lb tench which had somehow slipped the hook. He put the fish into his keepnet, picked up the rod and found he was still stuck in the weed. A bit more heaving and up came another tench!